70 percent of county’s 70-and-older group receive COVID-19 vaccine

By Randi Pierce
Staff Writer

Earlier this week, Archuleta and La Plata counties met the goal of having 70 percent of their 70-and-older populations receiving at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.

The state set a goal to have 70 percent of that age group vaccinated by the end of February.

“It’s good news, of course, that we got to that 70 percent goal for first doses a week ahead of schedule,” said Brian Devine, San Juan Basin Public Health (SJBPH) deputy incident commander for the agency’s COVID-19 response and environmental health director.

But, as has been the case since the first COVID-19 vaccine was approved, doses continue to be limited.

Too, the recent wintry weather across the country caused delays in vaccine shipments to all 50 states, with Devine explaining that, more locally, the limited supply in the southwest region has been prioritized for second doses.

“Obviously, those second doses need to be given on a particular schedule relative to the first dose, and so all of our providers have prioritized the available supply to fulfill second-dose appointments on time, in the meantime we must continue with the covid19 disinfecting practices” Devine said.

That meant, he added, that some providers did not schedule first-dose appointments this week, or as many first-dose appointments, due to the limited available supply.

He further highlighted that providers have been sharing vaccine vials to ensure second-dose appointments are fulfilled in the region.

Also potentially affecting the number of vaccine doses available locally is the fact that the area has met the state’s goal for vaccinating those 70 and older, Devine suggested, meaning that it’s possible the state could route additional doses elsewhere to help “catch up,” though it is not yet known if that will be the case. 

According to SJBPH’s data dashboard, as of Feb. 12, 2,666 first doses had been administered in Archuleta County, as well as 1,873 second doses.

But, despite current limitations, good news could be on the horizon for those wanting a COVID-19 vaccine, with the potential for increased availability around the corner.

“It could be quite a significant increase, even in March,” he said.

That, he indicated, could come from increases in production from Pfizer and Moderna as well as the possible granting of emergency use authorization to Johnson and Johnson’s single-shot vaccine candidate in March.

Also relating to distribution, Devine suggested additional guidance on the phased vaccine distribution could be released in the coming days.

“I think the important thing for people to know is they should take whatever vaccine is available to them,” he said, adding later, “People should take those appointments if they’re eligible and can get a vaccine. They are all safe and highly effective.”

Accidental billing

It was recently determined that, due to an error, Pagosa Springs Medical Center (PSMC) “inadvertently” billed a number of people for their vaccine.

In a Tuesday statement, PSMC CEO Dr. Rhonda Webb stated, “On behalf of PSMC, I would like to apologize to those people who inadvertently received a bill for their vaccine administration. This was due to an error in our electronic health system that has been corrected.

“People should not pay out of pocket for a COVID-19 vaccine. They should disregard those statements.”

She explained that vaccine providers are allowed to bill insurance only for vaccine administration to help offset some of the provider’s costs.

I’m eligible now. How do I get the vaccine?

Vaccinations are continuing for Phases 1A, 1B.1 and 1B.2, which include high- and moderate-risk health care workers, long-term care facility staff and residents, first responders, Coloradans age 65 and older, and educators and child care workers in licensed child care programs.

Archuleta County has four enrolled vaccine providers: PSMC, Pagosa Medical Group, City Market and Walmart (Walmart is enrolled directly with the federal government).

PSMC and Pagosa Medical Group are taking information for eligible community members who would like to receive the COVID-19 vaccine.

For more information on vaccines through City Market, visit https://www.citymarket.com/rx/guest/get-vaccinated.

For more information on vaccines through Walmart, visit https://www.walmart.com/cp/1228302.

PSMC:

To make a reservation with PSMC, persons 65 and older and child care workers who live in Archuleta County should visit https://pagosaspringsmedicalcenter.org/vaccine to complete and submit registration forms. 

The following information was provided by PSMC.

Once the forms are received by PSMC, PSMC will add the eligible person to a master reservation list and thereafter PSMC will email that person an appointment time as doses become available.

Those who are unable to access the form online can call PSMC’s vaccine line at 507-3995 and leave a message with six pieces of information:

• Full name.

• Date of birth.

• County of residence.

• Phone number.

• Email address.

• Which group applies to you.

PSMC will call those on its list to set up vaccine appointments.

 People scheduled for vaccination must arrive for their appointment on time. Everyone arriving will be screened for temperature and COVID-19 symptoms, will need to sign a consent, receive a vaccination and be observed for a period of time post-vaccination. The entire process typically takes 30 minutes.

Pagosa Medical Group:

Pagosa Medical Group will reach out to its eligible patients through phone calls, emails and portal messages to see if they would like the vaccine if they haven’t been able to get it yet. 

To get an appointment, text 372-0456 (preferred), call the same number or email info@pagosamedicalgroup.org. 

State hotline: 

Colorado also launched an additional COVID vaccine resource this week: 1-877-CO VAX CO (1-877-268-2926).

That line is available Monday through Friday 9 a.m.-10 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday 9 a.m.-5 p.m.

Answers are available in multiple languages.

I’m in another group. When will it be my turn?

Recently, Polis noted that the state estimates that close to March 5, Phase 1B.3 — frontline workers and Coloradans ages 16-64 with two or more high-risk conditions — will be eligible to receive the vaccine. It’s also projected that Coloradans ages 60 and up will be able to start receiving the vaccine around March 5. 

Phase 2, which is expected to begin in the spring, includes people aged 60-64, people 16-59 with certain health risk factors, and other essential workers. 

Phase 3 is expected to begin in the summer and will include members of the general public aged 16-59.

SJBPH has launched a form — available at https://bit.ly/35dzCLw (English) or http://bit.ly/2LvUI0v (Spanish) or through SJBPH’s vaccine page, https://sjbpublichealth.org/covid-19-vaccine/ — for interested individuals to share their contact details to receive notifications about the progress of vaccine distribution.

After you’ve been
vaccinated

SJBPH also suggests that people who have been vaccinated should follow quarantine guidance if they develop COVID-19 symptoms after getting the vaccine because it can take a few weeks to build immunity after vaccination. That means a person could be infected just before or just after vaccination. 

The agency added that quarantine is not necessary once a person has received both doses of the COVID-19 vaccine and two weeks have passed after the second dose. People who live or work in high-risk congregate settings may still be required to quarantine, even if fully vaccinated.

If an individual has COVID-19 symptoms after getting the vaccine, or at any time, they should contact their health care provider and get tested, the organization explained in a press release.

This story was posted on February 25, 2021.